The Era of the Heavenly Empress

Winter Court 1173 Begins

The Winter Court of 1173 was held at Kyuden Doji. The Scorpion, having the most influence while all the other Great Clans were focused on The Great Warrior Pilgrimage 1173 easily fulfilled their earlier promise of assisting the Crane in gaining the next Winter Court. The Crane had planned to use that promise to ensure that the Scorpion would be unable to use their support for their own gains during the subsequent years. With their debt fulfilled, the Scorpion were free to pursue their own agenda in the next year. Before the Court began in earnest, Otomo Kage issued invitations to many prominent members of each Clan, ones he had associated with in the past, to stay at his dwelling in Kyuden doji. Unfortunately, due to prior obligations, none of them were able to accept. This would prove helpful to the Scorpion later…

Doji Kwanchai found himself invited to a private tea by Shoshuro Jimen. While making conversation, Jimen presented a scrool to Kwanchai, believing that ‘Kwanchai would find it interesting to read’. It turned out to be a copy of The Danger of the Fated, written by Kitsu Sojiro after Pilgrimage. The book spoke of the dangers of those possessing a Dark Fate, and Jimen helpfully let Kwanchai know that if he required any additional copies there was a man that had plenty available, and all he had to do was ask. After thanking Jimen for the fine gift, he left with a very specific person in mind to tell of this scroll. At nearly the same time that this meeting was taking place, Bayushi Yoshimi was receiving another scroll, and another bit of helpful advice on where to find more copies from a different source; Bayushi Paneki, the Scorpion Clan Champion. Clearly the two were working at the same purpose; to bring down the glory of the Pilgrimage, or of someone on it.

Unsurprisingly, Doji Akemi, the famous Crane courtier and playwrite, had readied another masterpiece to present at this year’s Winter Court. Her last play, Orefesu and Uridesu, had been of legendary repute, and all expected her to repeat with her newest work, The Great Warrior Pilgramage. Firstly, however, she summoned Akodo Sozen to meet with her, as she had a request. She asked that she be allowed to refer to the ronin leader in the play as Akodo’s Hope, thus ensuring that everyone far and would would know that Sozen had been the one to ostensibly lead the Pilgrimage. He agreed, and revealed that he had learned of her interest in practicing with spear as a form of mediation, and thus gifted her with a Lion spear in return. However, it was Akemi that Doji Kwanchai had wished to speak of about Jimen’s intentions. Celebrating the Pilgrimage clearly would not sit well with Jimen, regardless of how moving the work was. Akemi told Kwanchai that she would take his warning under close advisement. She in turn did so by contacting [[:kakita-tiru] | Kakita Tiru]], now known as The Dark Crane. Tiru had requested, and in turn been granted a favor by the Doji family, and in return Akemi now asked him to champion her in an iaijutsu duel if needed. He agreed, even if that meant he might need to do so against Jimen’s best, or even Jimen himself.

Akodo Sozen was further honored by The Empress, invited to seat as part of her honored guests for the duration of the Court. She personally thanked him for leading the Pilgrimage, and gave him his very own personalized mon, decreeing that he was indeed Akodo’s Hope. After the ceremonies however, when the day gave way to night, Jimen met with Sozen discreetly, with only Jimen’s own yojimbo present besides the two of them. He advised that Sozen, having influence with Kitsu Kosho, advise the Lion to annul his engagement and future marriage to Yoritomo Hanako, for his own sake. In doing so, he would be as much of a hero as Sozen was, with the Emerald Champion insinuating that it was Sozen’s reputation and place as the leader, but not the creator of the Pilgrimage that was gaining him such glory. When Sozen replied that Kosho was the master of his own life and choices, and capable of handling himself, Jimen again counseled Sozen to advise Kosho about the dangerous path he pursued.

The two began to battle back and forth, with Sozen holding his own against Jimen’s skillful words and subtle jabs. When Jimen ‘confided’ in Sozen that he hoped barbarism wasn’t contagious, Sozen simply stated that the gajin needed to be fought, only for the Emerald Champion to reveal he knew that the gajin had turned away from Rokugan. He had issued his decree of non-interference with the invading ships because he didn’t want them to invade Rokugan after the Burning Sands. Now that a ship had survived, he was certain they would return, and in greater numbers. Sozen however would not be swayed, even though he reaffirmed his loyalty to the Empire, and the Emerald Champion. Jimen’s final words were that he made a better friend than enemy, to which Sozen wholeheartedly agreed, and that he was capable of besting any enemy without drawing his blade.

Meanwhile, Bayushi Paneki had approached Otomo Kage, asking if he would host a celebration for him. Kage agreed, but only after cannily having Paneki agree to pay for the charges he would incur. It was here that Bayushi Yoshimi moved around the room, learning whatever he could, listening instead of speaking, and when he did speak, saying nothing of value that could be used against him. During what began as a simple conversation with the Lion Clan Champion, Akodo Shigetoshi, Yoshimi discovered that the Lion had odd tics when the topic of the discussion turned to the subject of Akodo Saiori, the wife of the heir to the Lion Clan leadership, Akodo Hoshi. His suspicion piqued, he deftly ended the conversation without pressing the point too harshly, and instead went directly to Saiori, and from there, to Paneki. Learning that Paneki, offically, had no plan at all for Saiori, Yoshimi acted upon the information himself. Within two days, as a result, Akodo Shigetoshi retired; Akodo Hoshi would lead the Lion Clan now, as their Champion. Even retired, however, Shigetoshi would remain under Yoshimi’s thumb; no one was ever above disgrace.

That was not the sole event of the gathering that night, however. Isawa Banasu spoke with Bayushi Tosen concerning the Pilgrimage, speaking loudly enough to be overheard easily. She lay most of the blame for the deaths of so many bushi at the feet of The Tsunami, quoting from The Danger of the Fated as she did so. When she offered to read Tosen a segment of the scrool, Tosen replied that perhaps she would narrate before a greater gathering, after the fireworks display due in a day, as an example. When Otomo Kage, who had been conversing with Banasu before she’d drawn Tosen’s attention, also expressed his interest, Banasu gladly gave him a copy of the text. Lastly, Bayushi Paneki had spent much of the evening speaking to any about him in regards to Tosen being ‘like a son to him’. This lead in turn to Paneki asking Tosen’s opinion on a very important subject; could The Tsunami be taken in and tried? If so, he planned to have Kage, whose hatred of the Mantis was well known, prosecute the event. Tosen replied that it may have been a better idea to have a Lion, one of the Mantis’ allies, seek her out, and Paneki thanked him for his advice, mentioning that he had a specific Lion in mind for the task…

Sozen was not surprised when Jimen once more invited him to tea, making mention of the end of Akodo Shigetoshi’s career. Sozen, having no idea that it had been Yoshimi’s doing, could only grit his teeth, but as before, he matched words with Jimen with skill and daring. Still showing support for the Pilgrimage, if not for Yoritomo Hanako herself, he was going to lead a great ceremony in honor of those that had died. When he found himself being asked to be the one to arrest and bring Yoritomo Hanako to trial, he told Jimen he would speak to the Empress first. Thanks to the efforts of his wife, Akodo Namiko, and that of Hantei Ryozo, the consort of the Empress, he was granted an audience with great speed.

There, The Empress told him that despite his concerns, the knowledge and decisions she had made concerning Yoritomo Hanako were based on the advice of her most trusted advisors, including Jimen. When she asked him about the Pilgrimage itself, he replied that it was difficult, costly, but it had been necessary. The only regret he had was that so many brave bushi had died to grant them victory. Then, she proceed to make her final decree concerning the fate of Hanako, stating only that “Every sword that doesn’t obey is useless”. The meaning to one with Sozen’s honor and standing was clear. With her voice having spoken, Sozen only asked that she attend the trial herself, to which she agreed, especially when she suggested that the Serpent of the East may have been involved with Mantis royalty…

The fate of Yoritomo Hanako looked grim indeed; if it could be proven that she had been The Serpent of the East, her life would be forfeit.

The Trial of the Tsunami is set to begin…

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